Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager™© is the registered trademark and sole property of Paramount Pictures. This story is non-commercial and for enjoyment only. No copyright infringement is intended.



EMAIL: jrossca@sympatico.ca

RATING: (R) Warning: Reference to violence against a main character.

SUMMARY: An a/u where Endgame never happened and the voyage continues. What happens when good ship Voyager finally wears out?


Dangerous Liaisons


"Chakotay, when are you going to do something about that?"

Tom Paris jutted his chin out towards the cluster of laughing women. Kathryn Janeway was the centre of attention, holding up an indistinguishable flutter of sheer material for inspection. None of the women had any idea that the lieutenant and commander were sprawled low on a bench behind a huge dancing fountain, legs stretched forward and arms crossed on their chests. The commander grunted.

"That doesn’t answer the question, Chakotay."

"Paris, it not only answered your question, it completely summed up my opinion of the subject."

"C’mon Chakotay. You’ll never convince me that you’ve stopped lusting after our red-headed captain." Tom nodded his head towards Janeway. "I know that’s what you want."

Commander Chakotay was saved from giving a scathing reply with the arrival of Ensign Kim and Neelix.

"Greetings, gentlemen!"

"Hi Neelix. Harry. What took you so long?"

Neelix jumped in to answer Tom. "Mr Vulcan detained him but we’re here at last. So, what’s the plan?"

The first officer joined the conversation. "Anything I should be concerned about, Harry?"

"No, Commander. It was just loose-end stuff that I was going to do tomorrow, but Commander Tuvok wanted me to do it today. No big deal."

Chakotay nodded. "All right." He turned toward the Talaxian. "Neelix, it’s entirely up to all of you what you want to do. As long as I don’t have to bail any of you out, it’s fine by me."

"Well, then," Tom said. "I’m hungry. Let’s catch up with the women and grab a bite to eat."

All eyes followed Chakotay’s as the commander’s face pointed to where the women had been. They saw the ladies disappearing down the sun-drenched corridor of the mall, still oblivious that their crewmates had been so near.

"Fine by me," Harry agreed. "But we’d better hustle, they’re getting away."

They were at least ten feet along before Tom realised that the commander wasn’t with them. He turned back. "Chakotay, get the lead out. We’ll lose them."

"You go on ahead, I’ll catch up with you later."

Tom whispered something to Harry and Neelix and the two hurried on in the direction of the women. Tom turned back to Chakotay.

"What’s wrong? You said it was up to us."

"It is. I have no problem with you all grabbing a bite with Be and the others, Tom. But I’m going to walk around a little and see what I can find. I’ll eat later."

"With the little something that you find?" Tom’s eyebrow was high on his forehead.

"Perhaps. It’s been a long time since my last leave, Tom, and I’m a big boy now. I think I can handle a day off on my own once in a while."

"According to Be you never had any trouble picking up tidbits, that’s a fact. But are you sure you want to do that, Chakotay. I mean, it’s none of my business, but hell….."

"You’re right, Tom. It’s none of your business. See you on the ship."

Tom turned away slowly. "I’ll keep an eye on her for you, Chakotay."

"Get lost, Paris. She’s a big enough girl herself. I’m not worried so why should you be?"

Tom hesitated once more with eyes cast downwards but finally turned and rushed to catch up with the others.

Commander Chakotay stayed on the bench for a while, sorting out his thoughts. It was, he mused, the first time in a long while that he was deliberately planning to pick up a woman. He’d done it before a few times – okay, more than a few times – but not once since he’d come aboard Voyager. Frankly, he felt that he was getting too old for this girl-in-every-port lifestyle, but after eight years travelling through the Delta Quadrant he accepted that, here on Nouri, he had no alternative and faced up to it. He considered the irony of his situation.

After seven years it had become obvious that the only candidate he’d been interested in from the beginning was never going to reciprocate his feelings. He had tried to accept it and move on and then his second attempt at happiness had been squashed by the Admiral’s appearance.

Admiral Janeway. Trust a Janeway to destroy what little he had had with Seven. The Admiral had promised him she wouldn’t tell the Captain about Seven and he certainly never entertained any plans to do so. But somehow the admiral’s appearance brought Chakotay back to reality and he broke it off with Seven. He had tried not to be bitter but the Admiral’s influence had rankled for a short time and then just faded away. Chakotay finally realised that his feelings for Seven had done the same and then listened contritely to his spirit guide as she’d chastised him for ignoring her concerns about his relationship with the Borg. He never thought of Seven after that and he forgave the Admiral, but that didn’t alter what he was going to do today.

Chakotay stood up and looked around. He started to walk in the opposite direction of his friends.

Two weeks earlier the entire senior staff, together with Seven of Nine and Neelix, had listened intently to the report being given by B’Elanna Torres, Chief Engineer. It was a worrisome chronicle outlining the necessary maintenance required by Voyager. The faithful ship had brought them thousands of light years closer to home over the past eight years, but she was finally running out of gas. It was no longer a question of whether she needed to be put down and given an overhaul that would take months, it was now merely a matter of when. And the ‘when’ had to be sooner than later.

They discussed it briefly and agreed that Seven of Nine was to immediately begin identifying all M-Class planets, preferably inhabited ones which were warp capable. It would be much easier and faster to trade with a friendly populace for needed supplies than to land on an uninhabited planet and try to fashion them themselves. Five days later Seven contacted the captain.

Nouri was an M-Class planet with a warp capable society. The original reconnaissance party, composed of Harry and Tom, had determined that the Nourin chose not to make immediate space exploration a priority. They were working diligently on improving their warp system and designing the exploratory ships they’d use when they decided to venture forth. Tom and Harry had heard several political speeches on the planetary communication system advising that the first priority for all citizens was to get their own planet in order before spreading their own brand of domestic chaos abroad. They called it their ‘One Step at a Time’ program. Tuvok found this laudable and imminently logical but the captain and first officer had reservations. Would Voyager be welcome in this atmosphere? There was only one way to find out and the captain initiated first contact.

It turned out that their concerns were unfounded. The Nourin, as suggested by their approach to space travel, were indeed level headed, open minded, and even kind. The Prime Minister and a small entourage beamed up to Voyager to meet the alien crew and to begin discussing trading terms with Janeway and Chakotay.

It was a hard bargaining session. Janeway and Chakotay remained adamant on the position of not sharing certain technologies with the Nourin and they, in turn, were firm in certain requirements expected from Voyager. The captain and first officer discussed these between themselves for a whole day before resuming talks. They had little choice but to accept and agreed that at least it fit within their capabilities if not exactly within the Prime Directive. The new friends all agreed to this first set of terms and continued on to settle the business and social aspects of the next few months. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the Nourin’ knowledge and abilities could reasonably be expected to shorten that time by a minimum of three weeks. Things were looking up.

Everyone on Voyager finally started to relax and they landed their ship on a large foundation in the middle of a major town square. A memorial of sorts was about to be built there but it was postponed until after the space travellers were gone. The memorial workers happily packed up their families and took them on extended holidays; an opportunity of a lifetime which would never happen again. The Voyager crew opened hatches to feel the sunshine on their faces for the first time in a very long while. Some even made makeshift curtains for their quarters. Tom organised a curtain contest and Neelix won for Most Hideous. The little Talaxian never did understand that – he knew his creations were exquisite – but he put the award proudly on his viewport’s sill anyway. After eight years he’d become very comfortable with the teasing he got from his Voyager family.

The work began.

Lunch in the mall was over and the Voyager group split up into smaller groups to continue shopping. Tom and B’Elanna had heard about a store that had a wide variety of baby goods and they anticipated a fun hour or two looking at everything from clothes to toys for Miral. Tom had mentioned at lunch that he especially wanted to check out the toys, but B’Elanna couldn’t help but notice he was miles away as they went searching for the store. She stood at a sign advising "YOU ARE HERE" to get her bearings and, as they continued on, Tom turned to her.

"Be, I’m getting really worried about Chakotay."

It wasn’t what she was expecting, but it didn’t surprise her either. "I know, I am too. He hasn’t been the same since the Admiral was here and that was a year ago. You know, Tom, I still can’t believe that he and Seven were dating then and no one knew it. He never said a word to me."

"I think he was in shock or denial."

"Don’t be mean. I would have picked a hundred women for him before Seven of Nine, but damn it! If he was happy with her I don’t know why the Admiral had to screw it up for him. He deserves so much, Tom. He’s been my big brother for years and he’s so lonely."

"Yeah. On board ship you would never think it, but planetside…."

B’Elanna looked sideways at her husband. "What happened?"

"Oh nothing. It’s just that it was almost like he was wearing his loneliness. And then he refused to come with us when we came running after you girls. He’s gone cruising, Be. He’s looking for a one-night stand."

She was silent for a few moments; then, "I hope she’s nice to him, that’s all I can say."

Tom didn’t answer. He looked down into his wife’s sad eyes and nodded. "Me, too."

They arrived at the shop and he held the door open for her.

Chakotay had argued with Seven over the facts as Admiral Janeway knew them. As soon as the admiral had told them what happened in her time line she had already changed it, and there was no reason to assume that Seven’s disastrous death was then inevitable. Seven had steeled her heart against their relationship and he’d talked her out of it. She seemed to understand that her death was no longer written in stone and allowed their relationship to progress. The cortical node enhancement had worked wonders and Seven was experiencing deep emotions for the first time and, delightfully, for him. But, when push came to shove he was unable to finally allow himself to take the last step in loving her.

Chakotay was as pissed with himself as he was with the world in general. She was beautiful, she was willing to learn all he could teach her, she was there, so why couldn’t he just take her to bed and be happy?

Because she wasn’t Kathryn Janeway. And so here he was, one year later, going into a low lit bar with jazz playing softly in the background. He shrugged his shoulders to loosen them and looked around. There were several unattached females in the room. He’d take a seat at the bar and watch the action in the mirror on the wall. Spirits, it felt like old times.

"Is this seat taken?"

He looked up, startled. She was beautiful and exactly what he was looking for. "No. But if you take it I’d love to buy you a drink."

Her smile told him she knew a line when she heard one but he supplied a dose of dimples and she slid onto the stool. She caught the eye of the bartender and then answered him. "It’s all right, I have my own money."

"Maybe the second, then?"

"Maybe. We’ll see."

Kathryn Janeway sat quietly alone at the table. The others had all left to continue enjoying their day off but she had elected to stay in the restaurant and nurse another coffee. Her hands were wrapped around the mug but her mind was miles away.

Chakotay hadn’t come to lunch with the others. She had asked the men if they’d run into him in their wanderings and their answers tumbled out awkwardly. Two things were obvious – they had, and they didn’t want to talk about it, at least not with her. She filed the commander in the back of her mind and concentrated on enjoying her lunch with some of her favourite people.

But now she couldn’t help but think of him and she knew what he was doing. Kathryn thought grimly that if Tom would just start a new pool she’d put a month’s rations on Chakotay eventually showing up with a new woman while on Nouri. Two month’s rations if the woman was a tall blonde. She couldn’t blame him, he had to do it. For the millionth time since Voyager had arrived in the Delta Quadrant, or was is merely the millionth time this month, Kathryn wished it could be different between her and her first officer. Fantasizing about his kiss and touch was an empty pastime when she was pretty certain another woman was actually experiencing them.

And then she remembered who and what she was. A Starfleet captain did not dally with her first officer, no matter how many years they were away from home. She pushed the coffee mug away from her and picked up her parcel. She would take the sheer negligee back to the store and get her money back. She’d been a fool to buy it.

She was a tall blonde, just what he’d been looking for. She let him buy her third drink and, when it was finished, he made a suggestion to go somewhere else, maybe to catch a bite to eat where it was quiet. She didn’t object and they left.

Her name was Nyeda and she had an edge to her that brought out the Maquis in Chakotay. There was a way about her that reminded him of his old days when fleeting romances were all he had wanted or needed. He almost wished he hadn’t worn his uniform.

They found a dark bistro that was still serving and slid onto the bench that wrapped around the dark corner table. Chakotay may have laid it on a little thick about his freedom fighter days but it seemed to turn her on and he had no intention of stopping. She quizzed him on their voyage and space travel in general and he wove a legend that was sure to enchant. They were drinking tea when he felt her hand slide over his thigh and give a little squeeze. He turned to look at her, ready to reciprocate, when she leaned forward and put her mouth against his ear.

"Would you believe it? My brother just walked in with some of our friends and they’ll come over when they see me. Can you be patient for half an hour or so, Chakotay?"

As a matter of fact, he could. Maybe it was his age but Chakotay decided that he’d prefer to stay in the bistro for a while, buy a couple of rounds and get to know Nyeda, her brother, and their friends better. Voyager wasn’t shipping out for weeks and it suddenly seemed desirable to develop more of a relationship with this woman. Brothers had a way of showing up in dark alleys and that wasn’t what he was after.

The repairs to Voyager were coming along splendidly. Both the crew of Voyager and the Nourin learned from each other and friendships began to develop. Impromptu lunch breaks in the town square became planned picnics and Neelix was in his glory. His one disappointment was that the Nourin had the same culinary defect that the Humans had; they didn’t seem to care for leola root. It was most puzzling.

Prime Minister Axtar arranged a reception for the Voyagers about one month into their stay. In recognition of the many friendships developing, he even extended his invitation to allow a crewmember to invite a guest if they wished. It turned out to be a great party with none of the stuffiness so often associated with these kind of events, and the Voyagers were anxious to return the favour.

Kathryn would have to have been comatose to miss the fact that Chakotay had a date. He introduced his tall blonde to Kathryn and the three of them had a cordial chat, although it was questionable whether any of them really enjoyed it.

Kathryn left the reception early and thereby missed the enthusiastic return invitation for the Nourins to both visit Voyager and stay for another reception in another month’s time. When she found out the next day there wasn’t much she could do without seeming ungracious to their hosts. She decided she’d simply avoid the tall blonde and leave early again.

The month flew by and she was approving the party programme in Holodeck Two before she knew it.

So far Kathryn’s plan had worked. She had chatted with the Prime Minister and his wife and made the rounds without obviously avoiding Chakotay and Nyeda. Then, when it seemed that no one was looking she took a glass of wine and sat behind some tall, thick palms. Pulling out a hidden padd she began taking stock of the repairs to Voyager and where the trade agreement between the two peoples now stood. The noise of the room faded away.

Suddenly she found her thoughts being injected with giggles and her focus returned to the here and now. As luck would have it the Delaney sisters and Nyeda had picked the other side her sheltering group of palms as their preferred site for girl talk. Kathryn sat still in her hiding place feeling acute discomfort. It was irrational but she felt that if she made her presence known now it would seem as if she’d been eavesdropping on their conversation since the beginning. Looking around she saw no other means of escape so she was now truly stuck. Could this night get any worse? The answer came quickly enough courtesy of Megan Delaney.

"He always struck me as being fully equipped but I could just never get him to prove it to me."

"Me neither, and I certainly gave him every chance!" The tipsy laughter of the twins covered the beginning of Nyeda’s response, but Kathryn couldn’t help but hear the end.

"…..talking about such personal things, but I suppose there’s no harm in confirming that he is, as you say, fully equipped. Better yet, he seems to have earned his summa cum laude in how to use it."

The twins’ shrieks about ‘summa cum’ were joined with Nyeda’s small laugh and the next thing Kathryn heard was a new voice.

"Girls! Girls! Such unseemly behaviour in this corner! What are we all talking about?"

"None of your business, Tom Paris, but I’ll bet B’Elanna could tell you a thing or two about it!"

"Not to mention Seven!"

There was a sound of two drunken smirks being swallowed as Harry, B’Elanna, and Seven greeted the others.

"What was that about me?" asked the Borg after the brief formalities were done.

"We were taking about Commander Chakotay," Nyeda explained. "Megan and Jenny were enquiring about my friendship with him."

"Her very close friendship with him, actually, Seven."

"Don’t listen to them, Seven, the Delaneys were just being rude again."

"Thank you, Mr Paris. However it seems reasonable to hear how I figured into their conversation."

"Seven," Tom sighed. "Commander Chakotay. You. Last year."

At Seven’s raised eyebrow Megan sighed and continued. "Nyeda was confirming that Chakotay came fully equipped and it was suggested that you were in a position to appreciate her comment."

Jenny leered, "Was it good for you, Seven?"

"If you mean sexual intercourse with the commander, I would not know. We spent over a month developing a romantic relationship with all the normal physical advancements but, when I suggested to the commander that I was ready to share a more complete sexual relationship, he demurred. He decided that taking the next logical step would be inappropriate for us and that we should resume our previous professional relationship. So, I suppose you would say that I know his equipment fairly well, but not from the inside out."

There was a dazed silence as the Voyager friends stared at Seven. She raised her eyebrow.

"That was supposed to be humourous. I was trying to convey that my sexual relationship with Commander Chakotay stopped short of actual intercourse by using a witty play on words."

Tom put his hand over his mouth and Harry coughed. Seven seemed earnest in her willingness to explain fully and the Delaney sisters started to lose control again.

"I meant that we used the Commander’s ‘equipment’ many times to teach me techniques in giving pleasure while he, in turn, taught me skillfully about my own body, but we stopped short of…."

"We understood, Seven! Really!" cried B’Elanna.

"Oh. And did you find it amusing?"

"Hysterical, Seven, absolutely hysterical. Here, why don’t you and I go get a drink and have a chat….." Kathryn heard the shuffle of bodies and steps as B’Elanna’s voice faded.

"Actually, a drink sounds kind of good right about now, don’t you think, Harry?" Tom’s voice sounded slightly strained.

"Best one you’ve had in over a year, Tom. Let’s go. Night, ladies." Harry’s voice sounded hoarse. More shuffling bodies and fading steps.

Kathryn didn’t hear any further conversation but she registered the three young women leaving as well. So now she knew. There had been something between Chakotay and Seven and neither one of them had ever mentioned a thing to her. And he was supposed to be her best friend while Seven was her protégé. Suddenly the loneliness she had been feeling earlier felt insignificant to the devastating crush that now threatened to leave her breathless.

She decided to drink in her own quarters tonight. But first…..

The reception was beginning to wind down when Tom wandered over to Chakotay sitting at the bar.

"Be and I thought we’d have a few people over after the reception, Chakotay. You and Nyeda are welcome to join us, we’d all like to get to know her better."

"Thanks, Tom, but I think we’ll pass tonight. Maybe next time."

"Sure, no problem. Got particular plans?"

Chakotay took a slow sip from his glass and then answered curtly. "Yeah, I guess you could say that."

Tom ignored the silent warning. "That’s nice. Going to take her to a cozy place on the planet? Maybe a midnight dinner and moonlight walk?"

Chakotay’s eyes narrowed and his finger began to tap against his glass. "No. I doubt we’ll even leave the ship tonight. She’s been asking for a tour and since we’re here there’s no time like the present."

"Tour. Yeah." What Tom didn’t say spoke volumes.

"Spit it out, Tom, what’s biting your ass? And if I start thinking you’re jealous you’ll have me to deal with first and then your wife. And I mean it."

"Cool the jets, old man. I’ve got more than I’ll ever be able to handle in a lifetime and I know it. I was thinking of something else entirely."

"Good. What?"

"The schematics of Voyager actually came to mind."

"What in hell are you getting at, Tom?"

"Ever notice how sound sometimes travels in Voyager? I have. Damned if I don’t think I’ll ask B’Elanna about that some day. It’s always struck me as odd, all the strength in the old girl and yet she has that one little weakness. Bulkheads and Jefferies tubes just don’t seem very soundproofed sometimes, do they? Craziest thing."

Chakotay just stared at the younger man until finally, "Drop dead, Paris."

Tom placed his drink on the bar and returned the stare. "Drop dead yourself, Commander. What you do in your private life is your business, I have no problem with that. But you’re the first officer of Voyager and when you’re on board the captain is your first order of business. And furthermore, I know you know that, so stuff the attitude as well as the broad. Goodnight. I’ll send her over to you."

Insubordinate bastard, thought Chakotay. He watched Nyeda approach and signaled Neelix for two more drinks.

"Computer, what is the location of Commander Chakotay?"

"Commander Chakotay is in Holodeck Two."

Captain Janeway hesitated once last time and then threw caution to the wind. She was only going to be in his quarters for a couple of minutes, could that be so terrible?

Don’t answer that, she thought guiltily.

His doors slid open at the command of her wicked fingers and she tiptoed in.

Kathryn hadn’t been in Chakotay’s quarters for months. For some reason they always seemed to meet in her quarters for their working meals. She stopped and considered for a moment. Actually, it had been over a year – not since Chakotay and Seven had been an item. An ‘item’, the very word almost choked her. She looked around, not even knowing what she was searching for.

It was amazing how everything in these quarters was undoubtedly Chakotay’s. Kathryn honestly thought that if she’d been blindfolded and wearing gloves, she’d still know this was his home. She trailed her fingers across his desk and then spotted a frame that was facing away from her. She held her breath and picked it up.

It was of her and Chakotay. They were sweaty and dressed in workout clothes, with sticky hair and enormous grins. His arm was around her shoulder and their phasers seemed to be hanging from the ends of exhausted arms. She remembered that game; for the first time she and Chakotay had beaten Tom and B’Elanna in velocity. Harry had had his imager with him and had taken a quick picture. She had forgotten it immediately but apparently Chakotay had not.

It was on his desk and it was not Seven of Nine or Nyeda. That was interesting, but the real test would be in his bedroom.

Kathryn looked around furtively and said softly, "Computer, what is the location of Commander Chakotay?"

"Commander Chakotay is in Holodeck Two."

She turned around and hurried to the inner room. If possible, this room emanated even more of Chakotay than his living area. She could almost feel him in here. Kathryn took a deep breath and looked around. His bedroom was as neat and uncluttered as the other room, even the bed was made. Kathryn was thinking ruefully of the many times she crawled into an unmade bed when it hit her. If Chakotay had plans for entertaining Nyeda, he would certainly have tidied up and made his bed. She tiptoed towards the bed and carefully pulled back the covers to see if he’d used fresh sheets. What was she thinking? How in the world would she know unless she slid into the bed herself – and she refused to sink that low. She carefully made the bed back up.

Kathryn was just starting to look around the room for any clues when she heard Chakotay’s doors swish open and a voice calling for more illumination. The voice sounded familiar but she couldn’t quite place it. Her embarrassment at being caught by her first officer faded.

"Where’s that famous replicator? I want a drink." Another voice, again not Chakotay’s.

"I think that’s it over there, but be careful, Balek. I know that the Voyagers are rationed in its use and who knows what your voice may activate."

"Okay, I’ll wait for him to arrive. He’ll share." This other voice was malignant; Kathryn didn’t trust it one bit.

"Nyeda’s lost her mind falling for this one."

"Don’t worry, we’ll change his mind for him."

So that was it. She finally identified the voices; the first one belonged to Notile, Nyeda’s brother, and the other one belonged to one of his friends. They had been very pleasant at the reception, not projecting a hostile attitude at all, but they obviously intended to do a little business with Chakotay. And it didn’t sound like friendly business.

She had to get out of here. Notile and his friend would only be in this room if it had been pre-arranged since they had Chakotay’s access code. Unlike her, she groaned internally. Kathryn hoped Chakotay was prepared for these men.

Well, there was only one way out. Kathryn stood tall, straightened her shoulders, and walked confidently into Chakotay’s living quarters. She expected surprise, maybe even a little shock, but she didn’t expect what actually happened.

"You?!" Notile cried.

"Are you sure this is safe, Chakotay?"

"Perfectly safe, Nyeda. Why wouldn’t it be?"

"I don’t know – it’s just that I got a lot of strange looks at the reception. Everyone seemed so nice to me but still….I definitely got a vibe. I’m not sure I’m really welcome here."

"You’re mistaken, Nyeda. We were even asked to Tom and B’Elanna’s for a small gathering to finish the evening. I said no." He looked at her and grinned. "Hope you don’t mind."

She grinned back and slid her hand into his. "No, I don’t mind. We’ve been waiting for this for quite a while, haven’t we? So tell me, where are your quarters?"

"Not far, Nye, not far. Are you nervous?" He squeezed her hand.

"No, Chakotay. I know this is right for both of us."

"Good, because I’ve been looking for someone like you for a very long time. And here we are…."

The doors to his quarters slid open and they entered hand in hand.

Chakotay was the first to see the blood congealing on his carpet. Next his brain took in the tattered green bits of material and a green high-heeled shoe. The hand holding Nyeda’s bent hers back between her shoulder blades before she’d even reacted. His other arm reached around her neck, crushing her against his chest. She had no choice but to stay perfectly still; she’d tried to squirm at first and he’d crushed her windpipe even more.

"Where is she?" he almost shouted.

She tried to make a sound and he jerked her against his chest again.

"Just listen to me," he growled softly into her ear, "and you may live. Where’s your brother and his friend and where’s my captain? I’m going to let you speak now and you’d better make it good."

He moved his arm microscopically and Nyeda took a deep breath. "I don’t know, Chakotay – we were supposed to meet him here to discuss the plans. You know that!"

He crushed her arm between them even further and she let out a scream. "Nyeda, listen to me. You’re done, you have to know that. Right now your only use to us is for information and, if you don’t give me what I want, you’re just using up Voyager’s oxygen. Do you understand me?"

She nodded imperceptibly.

"Good. Then where did he take Captain Janeway and why?"

"Chakotay, I don’t know why he took her, our plans were set. She must have been in your room – Notile would have thought she was on to us if she was in here."

He tightened his grip on her and considered. Kathryn knew the plans, why had she been here? Whatever the reason those vermin must have come early to check out his quarters. He turned cold. "Where is he, Nyeda? Where would that slime brother of yours take her?"

Her felt her shake her head and jerked again. She almost lost her footing and her free hand helplessly clutched at his forearm. Finally she nodded. He loosened his arm again slightly.

"It could be anywhere, Chakotay, honest. He has more than one hiding place; even I don’t know where they all are. Please believe me."

"Believe you?! I don’t think so, Nyeda. Good night." With one swift movement he swung the dazed woman around to face him. She didn’t even see his fist flying towards her before her world went black and she sank to the floor.

He slapped his chest violently and hailed Tuvok. Playtime was over.

Tuvok had Chakotay on the transporter pad within seven minutes of the first officer’s call. He'd handed the bridge to Paris and gave Kim a terse order. By the time Chakotay was in the transporter room, Nyeda was in the brig. The doctor tended to her there; he slipped a cortical monitor on her but stopped short of actually bringing her around. By the look he'd seen on the second officer’s frozen face, it seemed safer to let sleeping dogs lie. The doctor realised with a start that Vulcans were not as expressionless as one was led to believe.

Harry had traced Janeway's lifesigns and had locked on, but a transport inhibitor prevented him from beaming her up. Chakotay grabbed a pattern enhancer and ordered Tuvok to put him down.

Chakotay the Maquis sparkled into existence ten feet away from Captain Janeway.

"Chakotay!" gasped Janeway weakly from the floor. She was naked and obviously suffering the after effects of a severe beating but one look at the pattern of her injuries told him she had put up one hell of a fight. She tried to stand, but fell. It was only then that Chakotay saw the horrendous wounds inflicted on her feet. It appeared that Notile adhered to the theory that crushed feet made escape and martial arts more difficult for his prisoners.

Chakotay focussed on his breathing, trying with difficulty to keep it even, to keep his face expressionless.

"Captain," he nodded politely to her, then returned his attention to her captor. He didn’t say a word; just fixed an icy stare on him.

Notile laughed viciously. "The gallant commander arrives," he sneered. "But too late it seems."

Chakotay tilted his head. "You missed our meeting, Notile. I’m not the one who’s late."

The political terrorist bent down and ran his hand down Kathryn’s shoulder to her breast. He cupped it and then turned back to Chakotay. "Your accomplice, I presume? I’ve had her, Commander. I’ve had her and you couldn’t stop me. Better than killing her any day."

In spite of her devastating physical state Janeway knocked his hand away with some venom. Notile pulled the hand back to strike her, but Chakotay distracted him.

"I’ve been busy with a woman, myself. Your sister. Besides, what makes you think I haven’t been there, too?"

Notile leaned down and brutally twisted Kathryn’s thigh to reveal its inner skin. She moaned and Chakotay coolly took in the blood and other fluids congealing on the bruises.

"Look carefully, Commander. If it wasn’t her first time then it certainly has been a long time since she entertained gentlemen callers. And, oh Commander! So tight and hot – you would have loved her, I’m sure." He pressed deeply into her tender flesh to bruise her again and laughed at her moan. He turned back to Chakotay. "So? If you aren’t here to rescue her in the nick of time, why are you here?"

The commander took his eyes off his captain and put them on Notile. "Just dropped in to say hi," he shrugged. "We have an agreement and I have no intention of you forgetting about that. Or about your sister."

The Nourin began to relax as his laughter filled the room. "Don’t worry about that, Commander, Nyeda can take care of herself! I’m still willing to deal, although my price has now gone up."


"Indeed ‘Oh,’ Commander. I now want your captain alive, as well as your ship’s replicator and transporter. And those biogel packs, they’re mine, too – as well as anything else I might find interesting from your ship’s schematics. Then, when we have all of Voyager’s information, you can sail away as the captain of Voyager as agreed. I’m sure you’ll have no argument with that, but you still have to say she's dead to guarantee that no one else will make any attempt to get her back. I won’t have it, I’ve grown fond of this little redhead, and I’ve decided to keep her for my toy."

"Take a closer look, Notile – she’s not a real redhead. And besides, I think you’ve convinced me – I do want a taste of it, after all."

"Get your own, Chakotay. I’m sure there are dozens aboard Voyager in addition to Nyeda that you can have just by bending your finger – this one is mine."

Commander Chakotay’s eyes turned cold. "Guess again, Notile. I’ve had that one earmarked for some time now, and that’s not going to change today – except for one little detail."

The Nourin bit. "And what’s that detail?"

"My price has just gone up, you useless piece of shit. Now, in addition to everything else on my list of demands, I’m adding back the captain – and possibly your head on a platter. Oh, and by the way, your sister just faded to black, I’ve definitely seen something better."

Voyager’s First Officer still had not raised his voice or changed his relaxed posture. As Notile stood there with a confused look on his face, seemingly unable to process this new development, Chakotay tilted his head again. "You seem confused, Notile."

"I don’t appreciate your sense of humour, Human."

"That’s because you haven’t experienced it, Nourin. I assure you, if you live long enough you might have learned to appreciate it. Too bad your time has just run out."

"You fool," sneered Notile. "What makes you think you can walk into this room and start making demands and threats on me! All I have to do to end your life is call a guard and you’re history."

The XO shrugged. "Then do it. But you should know, if Voyager doesn`t hear from me in.." Chakotay paused for effect, "roughly three minutes, they`ll beam all humans out and disintegrate this chamber and everything else in it."

The Nourin hesitated for a moment, a rising panic now clear on his face. He turned towards the inner door. "Balek!"

Nothing happened. He shouted again, louder this time. "BALEK!"

"Not worth my effort in standing here, Notile. Let’s see if I can do better."

Chakotay turned towards the door from which he entered. "Ayala!"

As he shouted, Chakotay prayed that Ayela’s assault team had been able to overcome the guards. There was a horrendous moment when Chakotay thought all might be lost, then the door burst inward, revealing Ayala and a team of Nourin security.

Notile staggered back against the wall, helpless now to resist his capture.

Chakotay watched him impassively, then stepped forward and ripped the cloak from his shoulders. Bending down to drape it over his captain, he murmured, "It’s okay, Kathryn, you only have to wear this robe until I get you to sickbay. You can phaser it afterwards."

"Chakotay….." she whispered.

"I’m here, Kathryn, and we’re going home now. It’s over."

Gathering her up in his arms, Chakotay hit his combadge. "Harry, two to beam directly to sickbay." They shimmered out of sight.

Prime Minister Axtar was as white as a ghost, but otherwise holding up pretty well. Commander Tuvok was explaining the current situation to him in the briefing room.

"We located Captain Janeway on our sensors and Commander Chakotay is there now to bring her back to Voyager. Nyeda is in the brig, unconscious, and you can take her for questioning at any time. I believe before the night is through that you will have what you demanded – the leaders and several top members of the underground group working against your One Step at a Time programme."

"I am very grateful, Commander Tuvok, but is your captain all right? I never had any desire to see anyone hurt in any way."

"Then you are not experienced in counter espionage activities, Prime Minister. You demanded a great deal of our command team and, from Commander Chakotay’s brief explanation, they have taken grave risks on your behalf. It is quite possible that Captain Janeway is not all right."

The Prime Minister looked at his hands on the table.

"The gods protect her." He sighed. "You’re right, of course, Commander Tuvok. We demanded Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay’s participation because we wanted to maintain an innocent distance between the terrorists and ourselves. We knew our inexperience in these types of matters would only end in failure. Your command team has gone above and beyond our expectations and, when this is all over, Voyager will have the utmost co-operation and respect from all of Nouri."

"That will be appreciated, Mr Prime Minister. However, I must now return to work. I would appreciate you removing the prisoner from our brig and taking her down to your authorities. She is rightfully yours."

The Prime Minister stood up and held out his hand. Tuvok took it tentatively.

"Thank you, Commander. When this is all finished Voyager may name its price as far as I’m concerned. You’ve done more for us in two months than we have managed in the last five years. Thank you."

Tuvok nodded as a security detail arrived to escort Mr Axtar to the brig to collect his garbage.

Chakotay entered his override code at Kathryn’s quarters. He tried to justify invading her privacy by telling himself that it would be cruel to make her walk to greet him, but the truth was he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. He was going to make sure she was okay whether she wanted him to or not.

He stepped into a darkness that was only relieved by starlight and quietly went in search of his captain. He found her curled on her bed under a blanket that covered her completely. He sat down on the bed and lifted the edge of the blanket to find her face.

"Kathryn? It’s me, I came to find out how you are."

Two pain filled eyes looked up at him. "I’m fine."

"Well, good. Now, let me see for myself."

She started to pull the blanket back over her face. "The doctor’s already done that, Chakotay. I’m fine."

His hand caught the edge of the covers before she disappeared completely. Her startled eyes peeked back out at him.

"Kathryn, I’m not here in a medical capacity, I’m here as both your friend and first officer. I’ll read the medical report later but right now I need to know your condition. I’m going to lower this blanket and take a look at you, but would you like me to get you a tea first?"


"Sure. Be right back." As Chakotay got the coffee he tried to decide if it actually meant that Kathryn did feel better or if she was merely clutching at a familiar support. He finally gave up, what did it matter anyway? It was a comfort to her either way and he was all too happy to supply her with that.

She slowly raised to a sitting position as Chakotay managed to disentangle her from the blanket. She was still wearing the sickbay gown and he only barely managed to keep his horror to himself. The doctor would never have released her if her bones and other major injuries hadn’t been mended, but her body was still covered in violent splashes of dark bruising. His eyes narrowed as he took stock of her body.

"Kathryn, why didn’t the doctor heal all this bruising? It must hurt like hell every time you move!"

"I ordered him not to."

"Spirits, why would you do that?"

She took that moment to bring the mug to her mouth, keeping her eyes carefully down. She sipped slowly.


He heard a little noise before she finally looked at him and spoke, but he couldn’t decide if it was a gulp or a hiccup of pain.

"Because I can feel them," she explained.

"I’ll bet you can! But why do you want to, Kathryn?"

"They let me know that I’m still alive, Chakotay. They’re all I can feel."

"Spirits, Kathryn….."

Chakotay abruptly stood up and went into the living area of Kathryn’s quarters. He’d known her for eight years and he knew where she kept her contraband, just as she knew where he kept his. She heard him fumbling at her desk drawers and waited for the inevitable.

"Kathryn! What’s the code? Give it to me now!"

"No," she cried feebly. "Let it go, Chakotay."

"You’ve got three seconds before I phaser the control. That’ll bring Tuvok and a security team – do you really want them to know what’s going on in this room?"

Of course she didn’t and he knew damn well she didn’t. It wasn’t fair for him to play hardball when she was feeling this weak. Vanquished, she surrendered her locking code and then he was back in her bedroom with a medical tricorder and dermal regenerator. Slowly he reached around and undid the sickbay gown, never taking his eyes off hers.

"It’s got to be done, Kathryn. I’ll call the doctor right now if you prefer that he do this, but it’s going to be done one way or the other. Who do you want?"

"I thought it was pretty clear what I wanted, Chakotay. The doctor certainly got the message, so why don’t you?"

He punched his communicator. "Chakotay to Torres."

"Torres here."

"B’Elanna, get down to Sickbay immediately. I want a full diagnostic performed on the EMH immediately. Report any irregularities to me at once."

"Acknowledged. Are you looking for anything in particular, Chakotay?"

"Yes. I have reason to believe that his diagnostic and rehabilitative judgment sub-routines may have been tampered with. If so, I want the signature."

"Ahhh, Chakotay ….."

"Yes, Be?"

"Does this have anything to do with the captain?"

"Get on it, B’Elanna."

"Yes, sir. I’ll let you know as soon as I’m finished. Torres out."

Chakotay turned back to Kathryn. "Really, Kathryn, do you think I don’t know you by now?"

She turned her head away from him. "He just doesn’t listen. I know what’s best for myself."

"Kathryn, what the hell do you expect of me? It’s bad enough you did that to the doctor without pulling Be and I in on it with you. You know damned well we won’t put anything in the logs, but what if we did?"

She didn’t reply but Chakotay could feel her trembling through the bed.

He just couldn’t stay angry with her. He went to the bathroom for a couple of towels and came back to begin working on her bruises. With soft music in the background he worked gently with the dermal regenerator, using the towels to maintain her modesty when the robe had to be shifted. The analgesic he’d administered first had a relaxing effect on Kathryn and it wasn’t too long before bruises were gone and he was tying up the robe’s sash.

"All done, Kathryn. How do you feel now?"

She was lying on her stomach and mumbled from the pillows, "Better, thank you, Chakotay. That feels nice."

He became aware that his hand was gently rubbing her shoulder. Without a word he went back to the bathroom and selected a perfumed lotion. Again the robe opened and displayed her back but this time Chakotay left the towels at the foot of the bed. He poured a generous amount of lotion in his hands and worked them to make it warm. Then his hands slid onto the cheeks of her buttocks and kept going up to her shoulders. His face followed them to meet her rising one and he whispered into her ears.

"Shhhhh, relax, Kathryn. Let me soothe you. You’ve had a long day, let me take care of you….."

His voice was hypnotising. Kathryn caught the first words but after that all she heard was the sound and cadence of his caring. The scent of the lotion together with his touch washed over her and, for the first time in longer than she cared to consider, she felt perfectly safe. His fingers were magic on her scalp and neck, wondrous on her shoulders and back, and divine on her legs. Somehow he managed to relax every muscle he touched without so much as tweaking one painful memory of a single bruise. She didn’t even realise she was sighing contentedly with every new stroke, but he did. It was music to his ears and he wanted to hear more.

"Kathryn, roll over."


He smiled and repeated softly. "Roll over, Kathryn."

Slowly she rolled over and their eyes met. "Chakotay?"

"It’s okay, Kathryn, you’re completely covered. I’ll just do your arms and legs and finish up with your feet – that’s always the best, having your feet done last."

"Mmmmmm…." Her eyes slowly closed and he started on her right hand.

Chakotay always enjoyed watching Kathryn’s hands work on the computer screens on the bridge. He’d often sit, seemingly engrossed in a report, watching them fly over the controls. They looked so small and feminine and yet he’d seen them heft a phaser rifle and slam the butt into the face of an enemy with hardly any effort. It was an exciting contradiction and one he never tired of. Even with the age and wear of eight additional years, those hands still fascinated him. They summed up Kathryn perfectly, small, feminine, and tough as nails. And he very much needed her to be tough as nails now.

Chakotay had reached an epoch in his life. This last mission had sealed his fate as surely as death would have done. Their plan had been laid out well, they’d had the co-operation of the planet’s authorities, and still Kathryn almost died. He simply could not handle that situation again without knowing that, at the end of the day, he could hold her in his arms and love her.

He tried to determine why it would be easier on him to go off into danger or allow her to do the same if they were lovers. It just didn’t seem logical at first. Then he realised that, if they were already lovers, there would be no regrets, no could-have-beens. His life would be more complete if he loved her totally for only one month than if he stayed on Voyager and served only as first officer for another fifty years.

He picked up her foot. This would be the last time he touched her body in a familiar way and he was determined to make the most of it. He kneaded the bottom with his thumbs and savoured the little noises that she made. Each toe got individual attention and he looked down and watched her, eyes closed and head all but rolling in pleasure. If she’d only accept all that he could offer…. No, then she wouldn’t be Kathryn Janeway, Captain of the USS Voyager. None of this was her fault, she’d never led him on. This was his choice and he was making it for himself.

He continued to carefully administer to her foot and then said softly, "Kathryn. Prime Minister Axtar offered me a job today."

She slowly focused on him. "What kind of a job, Chakotay? We’ll be finished in two weeks or so but that’s with your help. We really can’t stay much longer waiting for you"

He didn’t meet her eyes. "You wouldn’t have to. Apparently he liked what he saw down there and he wants me to stay on Nouri and continue helping them until the underground ring is completely broken up. Then, when that’s accomplished, he wants me to help them with their space programme."

"How can you, Chakotay? You’re first officer on Voyager – you’re Starfleet."

"Well, it seems that it’s my Maquis side that the Prime Minister finds appealing. His offer was very generous."

He felt her entire body stiffen.

"Chakotay?" she whispered.

Silence. "Chakotay?"


"You’d leave Voyager? You’d leave me?" Her voice was almost inaudible.

His hands stopped their gentle manipulations and he slowly brought her foot up to his lips. He kissed it softly but still did not meet her eyes.

"I can’t do this anymore, Kathryn. I make sure you eat a little food and you send me to the holodeck when I can’t counsel one more person. I cut you off coffee and you steal my rations. I escort you to Sandrine’s and you play pool with Paris." He paused before continuing. "I rescue you, you rescue me. Only, this time I almost didn’t make it in time."

"You told me once you’d never leave me."

"And I meant it. But if you keep ordering me to go, I don’t have much of a choice."

Chakotay finally looked into her eyes and she almost recoiled from the anguish in them. "Do you know how I feel about what happened to you down there today, Kathryn? I had to look at you, remember? I had to look at how he’d taken what I’ve been hoping you’d offer me for eight years. I can’t see you like that again, Kathryn. This time I didn’t make it in time – what happens next time? I don’t want to be the captain of Voyager, I only ever wanted to be your first officer. Your first man."

"Protocol…." She started feebly and then quit.

"I don’t give a rat’s ass about protocol, Kathryn. Do you think what we did down there was Starfleet protocol? Like hell it was. That was a maverick crew doing anything to get what they needed in order to reach home. You’re as Maquis as I am Starfleet now, Kathryn. Do you remember how I once asked you if you would have served under me if our circumstances had been different? Well Kathryn, our circumstances are different now and I want you to serve under me when we’re off duty. If you can’t do that, then I can’t serve under you on duty any more. It’ll kill me."

The tears were flowing down her cheeks freely now. "Chakotay, don’t – oh please don’t. I – I can’t deal with this right now. If you ever left me I don’t know what I’d do."

"You’d promote Tuvok to First Officer and tell Paris to set a course for home. Kathryn, I’m not saying I don’t understand your position on this. I’ve known for eight years that your number one priority is to get this crew home and I’ve never squawked once. I’m just telling you that I can’t stay here watching you take the kind of abuse you did today just to attain that goal. And no one on board this ship wants it either. I just hope that one day you finally rid yourself of the guilt you feel for all of us being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. No one blames you but still you’re eating yourself alive over it. And, like I said at the beginning, I can’t do this anymore."

Kathryn turned her face from him. "Are you sure that’s the only reason, Chakotay?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"A job. Money. Power. Maybe even Nyeda? I overheard her talking with Be and Seven at the reception. From the sound of it I’d have to say that you’ve known those women pretty well, Commander. It seems I’m the only one you haven’t had the pleasure with."

"Kathryn, my ‘relationship’ with Nyeda was to use her to infiltrate the terrorist group, no more no less. You and I discussed it for a whole day, right down to how far we’d go to help the Nourin, before we agreed with the Prime Minister’s terms. The only lover I’ve ever wanted was you."

"Oh Chakotay, I so want to believe that. I’m so tired and confused….."

"The doctor said that was completely normal, Kathryn. It’s going to take your mind and body some time to recuperate but it’s going to take you even longer. Talk it through, Kathryn, ask me whatever you want to know. Please, I’m here for you."

"I have to know this, Chakotay. Tell me about B’Elanna and Seven."

He took a deep breath before starting. "Well, you know B’Elanna and I are old and dear friends. We knew almost from the beginning that romance was out of the question between us – our bond has always been more like brother and sister than anything else. And okay, I’m sorry I never talked to you about Seven, but I just couldn’t. How could I talk to the woman I loved about a woman I was….." He stopped.

"‘Having sex with’ is the expression I believe you’re looking for, Chakotay."

"I suppose, although we never went farther than making out. Kathryn, I never slept with her, you must believe me. I’m not a saint but I wouldn’t do that with a member of our crew if I didn’t love her. I’ve seen what can happen and, since neither Seven nor I could put in for a transfer if it ever got ugly, I stopped it. You have to believe me."

Chakotay’s hand came over to cradle her cheek and he turned her face to look at his. "I promise," he whispered.

"But that doesn’t explain Nyeda. I heard her."

He shook his head. "Kathryn, I can’t speak for Nyeda’s actions or words. It might have been part of the game to keep appearances up or it might have been something as trivial as trying to keep up with the Jones’. I admit I did my job and I did it well, but I did not take her to bed. And I really think you ought to know that about me by now."

He felt his palm catch the tear that ran down her cheek.

"I don’t know anything any more, Chakotay. Except that I’ve got to get Voyager out of here and I can’t do it without you. And now I can’t even sincerely convince you to stay."

"Do you want me to stay, Kathryn? Because now you know the conditions you need to meet before I do."

"Yes, I want you to stay. But how will you ever know that I did it for us and not just whore myself to keep my first officer? You know what happened down there – what’s the difference between the two?"

"Spirits, Kathryn – ‘what’s the difference’? You were abducted, beaten, and raped, is that what you think I’m suggesting to you? That I’m demanding extra payment and privileges to stay on board Voyager?"

His hand dropped from her face and into his lap. He looked at her silently for a moment and then stood up. "I’ll pack my things, Captain, and be ready to transport down by 06:00 hours. Good night."

She honestly thought he’d turn around but when the doors to her bedroom opened to his approach he never hesitated. She grabbed the blanket and stumbled painfully after him.


He stopped on the quarter’s threshold, the doors open to the corridor, and then slowly turned around. Kathryn was clutching the blanket around her and leaning against the bedroom doorframe. Her crippled feet barely gave her balance.

"Yes, Captain?"

"Don’t leave Voyager. Please."

"I have to now. I won’t stay without you and I won’t have you thinking to the end of your days that you were coerced into a filthy relationship. I don’t want a whore, I want a woman. My woman. The woman I love and who comes willingly to my bed. I want you, Kathryn, I always have. Why can’t you just accept it?"

"I can," she whispered.

"Are you sure, Kathryn?"

"Yes, but I’m scared. How will you ever know whether I agreed to your terms just to keep you on board Voyager or because I truly love you?"

He started slowly towards her. "I’ll know, Kathryn. I’ll see the truth in your eyes."

Her breathing was beginning to get shallow. "You could have done this six or seven years ago and I still couldn’t have faked it. I always thought you knew that."

"No, only hoped and dreamed. And wondered why the only protocol you kept sacred was the one that kept us apart."

He was in front of her now, his body pressing lightly against hers. Their eyes were locked and she opened her mouth to speak when suddenly she started to slide down the doorjamb. He caught her quickly and lifted her into his arms. Kathryn laid her head against his shoulder and whispered.

"I had to, Chakotay. I’m the captain, and just because I can’t deny us anymore doesn’t mean that the captain in me isn’t still worried. What kind of a leader will I be with you controlling so much of my thoughts and feelings?"

"A very good one, Kathryn. When will you accept that Voyager isn’t a normal Starfleet assignment with crew coming and going? We’re a family and a long way from home and you’re going to be just as strong as you’ve ever been. To tell you the truth, I think you’re going to be a better captain than ever."

She sighed. "Of course you’d say that, Chakotay, and I even want to believe it. But we won’t really know until the next crisis, will we?"

"Why does it have to be a crisis that tests us, Kathryn? Love is a fortifying strength and with what I have to offer you it should make you the strongest captain in Starfleet’s history. Maybe even make the crew stronger, too. Now, hold on, I’m putting you back on the bed and calling sickbay. No, cut it out, Kathryn…..stop that…."

He waved her frantic protests down as he slapped his communicator. "B’Elanna, how’s the doctor?"

"Just putting the finishing touches on him now, Chakotay."

"Good. Get him up to the captain’s quarters immediately."

The doctor snapped his instruments back into their case and glared at Kathryn.

"The next time you decide to become the chief medical officer around here, Captain, I’m going to demand equal time in the big chair. You caused quite a few complications with your foolishness. If it wasn’t for the commander and Lieutenant Torres, you’d have been a pretty sick woman by tomorrow morning, probably even on the critical list."

"Ridiculous, Doctor. I don’t feel that bad."

Chakotay gave her an amazed look but she refused to acknowledge it. The doctor simply glowered.

"Lying is beneath someone with your Starfleet rank, Captain. If you want to see the test results just come down to my office tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I’m leaving you in the capable hands of Commander Chakotay with the strict instructions that he not take his eyes off you for two minutes."

While the captain and chief medical officer continued to spar at one another, B’Elanna took the opportunity to wink at Chakotay and speak softly to him.

"I guess I’ll get home then if everything’s under control here, Chakotay. Tom and Miral were going to replicate chocolate pudding and I want to stop the food fight before I have to scrape pudding off of everything – and Tom – with my bat’leth." She spoke louder, "Goodnight, all."

The doctor accompanied B’Elanna out and Kathryn and Chakotay were left looking at one another.

"What are you staring at, Chakotay?"

"You. Doctor’s orders. For the first time I think that EMH has nailed it, you need constant surveillance."

"That quack. I’m perfectly fine.

"Sure you are, Kathryn. Sandrine’s is up and running, feel like running down there and dancing the night away?"

She looked at her feet dangling off the edge of the bed. "Okay, so not perfectly fine. But I would be if people just left me alone."

Chakotay came to the bed on her right. He sat, tucking his left leg under his right and then turned so that he was facing her. He leaned on the hand he placed behind her and brought his mouth to her shoulder. Slowly he kissed his way to her ear, and then smiled as she tried to disguise her reaction to his hot breath.

"Two minutes, Kathryn, I can’t even take my eyes off you for two minutes. Orders from the Chief Medical Officer of Voyager."

Her head tilted away from him, exposing more of her throat. "That’s just a figure of speech, Commander. I can order you back to your quarters."

"He outranks you in medical matters, Kathryn. ‘Me and you, stuck like glue.’" He worked his kisses back up to her ear. A thrill ran through him as he heard her catch her breath and felt her shiver. He whispered softly, "Now that we’re joined at the hip, as it were, what would you like to do?"

She hesitated for a moment and then gave in. "I’d like you to sleep with me tonight," she whispered. "To hold me close. Will you do that for me?"

"So it was all a plot to break up a terrorist group that disagreed with the Nourin plans to hold off on space exploration?" For once in his life Tom was totally nonplussed.

"Yes. Apparently it started up several years ago but had finally gotten to the size where the government had every reason to worry about it. Why Tom, do you think you’re the only one capable of being a double agent?"

Chakotay thought he was grinning in reference to Tom’s early mission in Voyager’s life to uncover a traitor, but everyone else thought he was beaming. Come to think of it, the commander was glowing. All eyes turned to the captain.

She was glowing, too.

"It wasn’t our choice, Mr Paris," she explained. "Prime Minister Axtar drove a very hard bargain. He knew we were over a barrel, figuratively speaking, and he traded for counter intelligence. He figured someone from Voyager could be the perfect infiltrator and he lucked out with Chakotay’s Maquis experience. It was either that or find another planet for our repairs, and the next Class-M planet was 27 days away. A very big barrel."

"Yeah, I guess so, but they sure did help us out. And I like them, they’re not the conquering kind. Well, at least the general society isn’t."

"True, and that was the deciding factor. It took us a whole day but we finally decided that we were only tampering with their culture in a minute way. The general population fully backed their elected government’s commitment to One Step at a Time and, when Axtar mentioned the very real probability of Voyager being commandeered, that settled it. We made the deal and Axtar got the misinformation spread in the right places about the Maquis captain’s unhappy arrangement with Voyager."

B’Elanna looked balefully at Chakotay. "And enter Nyeda the recruiter. You might have confided in me, Chakotay. I think we were together long enough in the Maquis for you to at least trust me."

"And I, Commander," echoed Seven. "I could have been of invaluable service to you."

"Thank you, ladies." responded Chakotay. "I appreciate your support but this was a one-man job. Besides, you couldn’t have played your parts any better than you did without knowing a thing. And, I don’t think you would have had much influence with Nyeda, she was definitely a man’s woman."

B’Elanna grinned. "You never know, old man. Don’t underestimate the power of the ladies room"

"Indeed," agreed Seven. "It has been one of the most surprising pieces of information I have grasped, Commander. You would not believe what transpires in those small rooms."

Chakotay looked at Kathryn with an innocent face. "Perhaps."

"That Nyeda was some recruiter. I’ll bet that group was growing exponentially with her being used as bait."

Everyone looked at Harry. Tuvok and Seven performed their famous raising eyebrow duet.


"Nothing, Mr Kim," replied the doctor acerbically. "Your hormones are raging again, that’s all."

"Warp waste. I just meant that I really thought the commander was a goner. No one guessed that either one of them was playing the other, they both made it look like true love."

"Oh really, Ensign? How so?"

"I meant ‘figuratively speaking’, Captain."

"Of course, Mr Kim."

It was finally over. Kathryn and Chakotay sat on her couch, both heads resting on the back of the couch and his arm draped possessively across her shoulders. Neither one had spoken a single word in over twenty minutes. Finally, Kathryn let out a deep sigh. Chakotay didn’t even open his eyes.


"Nothing, I was just thinking."

"Sounds like it hurt. What about?"

"You’re about this far away from becoming an lieutenant, Chakotay. I was thinking about last night."


"Or, better yet, an ensign. What happened?"

This time Chakotay turned to look at Kathryn. "I beg your pardon?"

"Last night. After all your big talk yesterday……" She hesitated. "Was it me?"

He closed his eyes back before answering. "Kathryn, please don’t misunderstand, but it’s going to be a while before I make complete love to you."

He felt her stiffen in his arms. "I see."

He pulled her against him and brought his mouth down to her. "See, you’re misunderstanding. I told you yesterday that I loved you, Kathryn. I may have described how I felt using physical terms, but it’s much more than that for me. You have some healing to do first, love, both physically and mentally."

"Are you sure you won’t get tired of waiting and run away to the planet and take Axtar’s job? Maybe even find Nyeda?" she smiled in the smug manner of a woman beloved.

"I’m sure and I already know where Nyeda is. I also know that Mr Axtar really appreciated you agreeing to hang around for another week so that we can help them out a bit more. He’s particularly pleased with B’Elanna’s specs for stronger shielding – by any chance did you have something to do with that?"

"In for a penny, in for a pound. When Starfleet reads all the logs regarding our stay on this planet I’ll end up in New Zealand anyway."

He laughed. "Not that would be interesting. What do you think the chances are that Maquis tricks could circumvent that shield around the penal colony? I’d just beam you up and we’d head back here. I could even support you, I understand I’m hot property on this planet."

"Baby, you’re hot property wherever you are."

He groaned and let his head fall back on the couch. "I wonder if that EMH has a hypo to hurry your healing."

"I doubt it, he likes to see me suffer."

He smiled at her. "We all do, love, but not like this so let’s put aside the jokes just now. I’ve waited eight years for you, Kathryn and another few months won’t mean a thing to me. Voyager needs her captain back in peak condition and I’m going to be with you during your recuperation every step of the way."

A small flush began to spread across her face and she couldn’t meet his gaze. "I’m sorry, Chakotay."

"For what? For needing to heal? Please Kathryn, don’t be foolish – that’s not your style."

She paused, still looking down. "I still don’t feel totally clean….."

"The doctor said that was normal, Kathryn. It’s psychological and very real. Can I do anything to help you feel better or is it best for you if I just stay in the background to support you?"

A flash of blue hit him in the eyes. "No! I mean, no, please don’t stay in the background. How I feel about that and how I feel about you are totally different, I just can’t seem to cross the bridge between them….."

He kissed her softly. "You don’t have to. Slowly but surely you’ll come to know in your gut as well as your head that you’re not guilty for being a victim. That bridge will disappear and then we’ll have the rest of our lives truly together. In the meantime, let’s just take it one day at a time. Just being able to scream out loud that I’m in love with you is enough for me right now. That, plus sleeping with you."

They both smiled. Kathryn’s hand slid up Chakotay’s chest until it wrapped around his neck and her head nestled against his chest. "Well, you have to admit that when I make a mistake I do it in four-pip style. Imagine, we could have been sleeping together for years. I’m beginning to doubt your abilities as first officer, Chakotay. After all, if you did your job right I’d have been in your bed years ago."

He snorted. "You’re just damned lucky there’s a rule somewhere that doesn’t allow me to spank you, Kathryn. But you just reminded me of something – why were you in my quarters after the reception?"

Her eyes flew open. Busted. "I thought something was fishy with Notile and Balek."

"You did not, you little liar. You were stewing over the thought of me bringing Nyeda there. And, why was that, anyway? You knew all the plans."

"Exactly, I feared for you. Is that clear enough for you?"

"Clear, yes. Honest, I’m not so sure."

"What do you want me to say, Chakotay? That my ulterior motive was to catch you in some clinch with that top-heavy blonde? Why would I do that?"

"Because you were jealous and you couldn’t admit that you loved me."

"You’re pretty confident about that, aren’t you, Commander."

He smiled. "Of course I am. Besides, even if you hadn’t already confessed, being caught in my quarters was a dead giveaway."

She groaned. "Don’t use the word ‘dead’, it was almost true." She sighed. "I guess my secret is truly out in the open now, isn’t it? Well, I don’t care. All’s well with the Nouri connection and it’s going to be a long ride home and I want you by my side – and not just on the bridge."

"It’s where I belong, Kathryn. You’re just a slow learner."

"Oh? Well now, in that case would you like to teach me a few more things? Over and over again?" She snuggled her face into his neck and started kissing him.

He considered. "That idea has merit. But first, I have to correct yet another mistake of yours. Hold on."

Her lifted brow followed him to her own bedroom. He was only in there for a moment and then returned to her carrying a package.

"Here, this is for you."

She carefully opened the gift wrapped present and slowly pulled out a delicate film of sheer material. She gazed at it carefully and then looked up into Chakotay’s eyes.

"This is the negligee I bought and then returned the day we put the plan into effect. How did you know?"

He grinned. "Eventually you’ll learn not to bother asking that question, Kathryn. I always know. What I didn’t understand is why you returned it."

"None of your business, I had my reasons."

"Good ones?"

"No, but that’s beside the point now. Did you want me to put it on?"

"Hell no, let’s give it to Paris for a Christmas present."

She laughed and stood up. "Your sarcasm needs work, Chakotay. I’ll be right back."

As he waited Chakotay slipped off his moccasins and started to undo his shirt. Then he stopped short. Kathryn in that sheer nightie – he did his shirt buttons back up. Much much better to watch her undo them herself and then take her to bed.

He stood and turned to her bedroom door. He didn’t have to wait long.



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